Some mid-week updates

I know things have been unusually quiet here lately. Things at the day job have been very busy. The kids have been keeping us plenty busy at home. Combine those two things and as much as I’ve wanted to read, write and blog, I just have been too worn out. But I figured that at least a brief update of goings-on was warranted so that you didn’t feel like I was neglecting you.

  • I’m trying to catch up on the Nebula-nominated short fiction that I have not yet read. But I got distracted and ended up reading Michael Swanwick’s “Legions in Time.” It’s his 2004 Hugo award-winning novelette. It was called out to me because it’s jumping off point was A. E. van Vogt’s “Recruiting Station,” which I discussed in Episode 33 of my Vacation in the Golden Age.
  • I got the Kindle version of the March/April F&SF today which contains “The Man Who Murdered Mozart” by Robert Walton and Barry N. Malzberg. Barry told me this is his most ambitious story in 15 years. Any guess what I will be reading tonight?
  • My schedule has filled up for a period of about 7 solid weeks beginning with the very last weekend in March and concluding with the Nebula weekend in mid-May. During that time, we’ll have family and friends in town on 3 separate occasions, will be attending a couple of weddings, will be flying to the L.A. area for my annual work retreat1, and of course, attend the Nebula award weekend, which I am really looking forward to.
  • My sister, brother-in-law and their kids are coming to visit this weekend. That should be a lot of fun. I’m even taking half the day off on Friday.
  • Because I was sick earlier in the week, I did not have my regular Wayward Time Traveler column this week. It will resume on normal schedule in two weeks.
  • Tonight is a writers group night, and Kelly even said it would be a good night for me to go. Alas, I am so utterly worn out that I’d rather just stay home and get to bed early.

That’s it for now. I’m hoping that things will get back to normal here soon.

  1. I ordinarily look forward to this because it’s nice to get to see the rest of my team. But this year, I’m so worn out and so busy, I’d honestly rather not have to go.


  1. Here’s what Michael Swanwick had to saw about Alfred Elton van Vogt after the Great Man’s death on January 26, 2000—

    Michael Swanwick: A. E. van Vogt: Fast, Smart, and Out of Control

    “A. E. van Vogt was the first science fiction writer I actually *learned* from. At an ungodly young age I encountered his “Recruiting Station” in a Groff Conklin anthology and was blown away by its headlong pace and dazzling energy. I came away from that story with two valuable lessons. First, to move the plot along as fast as it will go. Second, not to hoard ideas, but to fling ‘em out as rapidly as you can find a place for them.

    “These two principles served van Vogt well. He was not much of prose stylist. So he moved the reader through his stories too fast for that defect to be noticed. He understood that ideas not used are like fairy gold–they turn to pebbles and leaves in the morning. So his best work is chockablock with wild notions and stunning imagery. Which is why stories like “Enchanted Village” and “Black Destroyer” still live, when the work of so many of his cohorts is now dust.

    “I owe the man a lot. I wish *I’d* written “Enchanted Village.” – MS

    Heck, I just wish I could (again, for the first time) read “Recruiting Station” and “Enchanted Village”. 🙂

    1. Mark, the only thing I would disagree with is Swanwick’s statement that “he was not much of a prose stylist.” Compared to others publishing in Astounding at the time, van Vogt seems to be the most stylistic in his writings, especially in the openings of his stories which often seem much more like mood pieces than action adventures. Strangely, the stylistic embellishments seem to fade as the action picks up.

  2. Good point. In his on-line review of NESFA’s ‘TRANSFINITE: THE ESSENTIAL A.E. VAN VOGT’, Paul Di Filippo wrote—

    “Van Vogt knew precisely what he was doing in all areas of his fiction writing. There’s hardly a wasted word in his stories… His plots are marvels of interlocking pieces, often ending in real surprises and shocks, genuine paradigm shifts, which are among the hardest conceptions to depict. And the intellectual material of his fictions, the conceits and tossed-off observations on culture and human and alien behavior, reflect a probing mind…”

    Van Vogt often complained about how slow a writer he was. Trying to craft “science-fictional” sentences that would build on earlier ones… always seeking to conjure up images for the reader’s “mind’s eye” to question and then detail.

    Or as VV once wrote, “…In writing science fiction, I tried to write each sentence in such a way that the reader would have to make a creative contribution- that’s the science fictional sentence.

    “My feeling is that once a reader has read any science fiction of mine, his brain will no longer be the same.

    “That’s my mark on the sands of time: several million readers all over the world changed (for better or worse- I think for the better) without their even noticing it.”

    From THE BEST OF A. E. VAN VOGT (July 1976)


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